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The First Things Not to Do In a Job Interview

18th June 2015 | Lynn Williams

Ultimate Interview author Lynn Williams explains how to avoid the pitfalls of the first questions you're asked in a job interview; even the social questions at the start can make a big difference to your eventual success. If you're ever at a loss for how to handle them effectively, this article is the perfect starting point.

When you go for a job interview, your interviewer will probably open the interview with a brief introductory chat about the company, the job, the form the interview will take, etc.

The First Social Questions: How to Handle Them

There will also be general ‘social’ questions designed to break the ice:

‘Did you have a good journey?’

‘Was the traffic OK?’

‘Did you find the building/your way here all right?’

Beware. The impression you give in these first few minutes will linger throughout the rest of the interview. Although the questions are genuinely meant to put you at your ease, your responses will still form a picture of you in the interviewer’s mind.

Remember you are here to demonstrate, along with your skills and experience, your:

  •  likeability;
  • intelligence;
  • positivity;
  • competence;
  • integrity;
  • adaptability.

Gabble feverishly. You should have enough competence to get there in time to regain both your breath and composure.  

Clam up. Be co-operative and friendly, and try to give more than a terse, one-word answer.

Complain. Be positive. However bad the traffic, however difficult the office was to find, don’t make an issue of it: 1) you’ll be seen as a moaner; 2) they’ll wonder how you cope with other minor problems and irritations; 3) you’ll be making the same journey every day if they employ you, so are they going to have to listen to you complain every time?

Blame. Don’t pick faults in their directions or instructions even if you could improve on them.

Ramble. Be professional. This is not the time for lengthy answers about routes, timetables, maps, etc.

Put yourself down. You don’t need to explain how disorganized you are or what a poor sense of direction you have.

Use problems as an excuse. Cope with adversity. They won’t see being stuck in a traffic jam that morning as a reason for doing badly in the interview.

Do demonstrate your likeability, competence and positivity from the start:

Smile. Do your share of the ice breaking by smiling and making eye contact.

Answer warmly and pleasantly. Behave as you would in any somewhat formal social situation.

Give a positive response. Whatever the circumstances, give the impression of being calm and in control.

The First Question: ‘Tell Me about Yourself…’

After putting you at your ease, the interviewer will sometimes lead into the main part of the interview by asking you an open question such as ‘Tell me about yourself’ or ‘Tell me about your current job.’ They want to know about your competencies, so this is your invitation to sell your ability and experience. Think of it as a mini-interview in which you briefly introduce topics that the interviewer can explore in greater depth with their subsequent questions.

Ultimate Interview by Lynn Williams is published on July 3rd and is available to pre-order now from www.koganpage.com. You can pre-order Ultimate Interview at a 25% discount when you use the code ULT25 at checkout on this website.


Business, Finance, Risk, Information Management

The Kogan Page range of management and leadership books combines leading authors, practicality, detailed case studies and best-practice methodology. Our books are used by managers and leaders worldwide to make informed decisions based on the latest business thinking. Follow us on Twitter @KPMgmtLeaders.

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